Report Card: Vanderbilt vs. Northwestern

The game is over now: Northwestern 23, Vanderbilt 21. analyzes every element of the Commodores' performance and assigns a grade to each area.




Larry Smith started out slow but finished with a solid 240 yards passing, completing 19-of-33 passes for 240 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Other than the interception he had a couple of other bad passes that might have been intercepted. However, he doesn't get credit for passes that VU wide receivers drop so we shouldn't have dropped interceptions against him either. Jonathan Krause looks like the player that Vandy was missing last season. He's going to get even better as the season progresses. The offensive line provided at least decent protection for Smith. Brandon Barden made a difficult touchdown reception in the third quarter.
The Commodores piled up 192 yards rushing and probably should have run more than they did. Zac Stacy had an excellent 33-yard run in the fourth quarter that helped Vandy to almost pull this one out. Warren Norman and Kennard Reeves also had some outstanding carries. Larry Smith ran hard as well, picking up 48 yards on the ground. The young Vandy O-line wasn't perfect but they'll get better as they get used to the speed of the game.
Although the Vandy secondary made some excellent plays and hard tackles helping to defend the run, they just didn't get it done against the Northwestern passing attack. Dan Persa, a fine quarterback, finished with a gaudy 19-of-21 completions for 222 yards and three touchdowns. Eddie Foster made beautiful breakup in end zone that forced Northwestern to attempt a field goal which was blocked by T.J. Greenstone. However, this team area is the breakdown that likely cost Vanderbilt the game, not the officiating.
Pretty solid. There was some hard hitting taking place on Saturday night. Chris Marve and Jay Fullam each had 12 tackles to lead Vandy. Persa affectively used his passing skills to open up the run for himself, picking up 82 yards on the ground. However, the Wildcat starting tailback, Jacob Schmidt, picked up only 44 yards on the ground.
While the passing defense didn't get it done, the single event that likely cost Vanderbilt this football game was the missed extra point near the end of the second quarter. Ryan Fowler also missed a 46-yard field goal but made a 30 yarder. Carey Spear was not as impressive with his kickoffs as he demonstrated in preseason practice. Maybe it was a case first game jitters. On the bright side, T.J. Greenstone blocked a Northwestern field goal to keep Vandy in the game and Eric Samuels had an excellent kickoff return to start the game.
When Vandy didn't go for the field goal on the 33-yard-line, I thought it was a mistake but later (after missed kicks) it looked like a good decision. Caldwell showed solid clock management at the end of the first half which enabled the Commodores to get a field goal. Going for a 2-point conversion in the third quarter was the right decision at that time. After Barden's touchdown Vandy trailed 17-15 with 1:51 remaining in the third quarter. What if Caldwell had kicked the extra point to make it 17-16 and then there was no more scoring for the rest of the game? Then Vanderbilt would have lost by one and everyone would be screaming, "Why didn't you go for two there!"
Some nice plays and effort but too many mistakes. The poor pass coverage really hurt Vandy's chances. That said, there were a lot of young players in the game who give Commodore fans hope for the near future. You can bet the staff and team will be hard at work this week solving the pass coverage breakdown and working to fine tune all areas of the team in preparation for LSU.

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